ALBANY, Calif. -- Albany's police chief is defending the way his department handled its investigation into a teacher who was arrested on suspicion of molestation but committed suicide before he was charged with a crime.
In a statement he issued on Thursday, Police Chief Mike McQuiston said, "James Izumizaki's arrest and subsequent suicide understandably upset many in our small community. It's clear that people are hurt and confused by this tragic turn of events."
Izumizaki, 28, a sixth-grade teacher at Albany Middle School, was arrested at his Albany home on Sept. 26 on suspicion of performing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14. He posted bail the following day and was released.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office was reviewing the case and his arraignment tentatively was set for Oct. 24, but he hadn't been charged as of Monday morning when he was found dead in his car on Via Alamitos in San Leandro.
A makeshift memorial for Izumizaki was set up at Albany Middle School after his death and some students and parents criticized Albany police for the way they investigated the case.
But McQuiston said in his statement that a judge approved a probable cause warrant enabling police to search Izumizaki's home, which provided evidence in the case.
He said, "This step provided judicial scrutiny of the evidence.
This independent, third-party review by a magistrate uninvolved with the investigation is a safeguard against police abuse of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment."
McQuiston's statement also indicates that there were multiple victims, although it doesn't specify how many.
He said, "The reported victims in this matter are minors" and he wants to thank "those victims and witnesses who have shown great courage and character by coming forward."
McQuiston said the Albany police investigation "continues today and will continue until all known leads are exhausted" despite Izumaki's death.
He also said police will share with the school district any information they share during their investigation if it "might help our school district colleagues better protect their students."
McQuiston said he released the statement "because I believe in transparent and responsive policing." ..Source.. by ABC7
Albany teacher suicide, molestation arrest split community
ALBANY -- When Marlon Short's daughter returned from volleyball practice Monday night, her dad sat her down in the living room and broke the news to her: "Mr. I," her longtime basketball coach and favorite middle school teacher, had killed himself.
"She was physically shaking," Short said of his daughter, now a St. Mary's High School junior.
The week before, the 35-year-old Albany father had told her of Albany Middle School teacher James Izumizaki's arrest, on suspicion of committing a lewd act on a girl younger than 14.
"These last two weeks have been crazy," Short said Thursday, shaking his head while standing outside the middle school on his way to a parents-only meeting on how to help their children cope with the multilayered tragedy.
This small East Bay community, where families move for good schools and a small-town feel, has been torn apart by the revelations.
Many residents supported Izumizaki, who grew up in Albany before returning to teach at his former middle school, believing the immensely popular teacher and coach could never commit such a crime.
Others are shocked that parents would support a molestation suspect, particularly while his young accuser already copes with guilt for coming forward.
The disparate viewpoints have played out with passionate conversations in homes, in meetings and on the town's hyperlocal news website, Patch, leading an editor to post a blog explaining why the story was even being covered at all.
Experts say taking sides is all too common in these types of cases, which can tear at the fiber of communities.
Shortly after the 28-year-old Izumizaki was found dead in his car in San Lorenzo, some in the community began blaming school administrators, police, media and even the victim for his suicide. He left a note, but its contents have not been made public.
"Imagine you are the best at something. You are the best at this not just because it comes natural to you, but because you pour your heart and soul into it every day," an Albany Patch commenter going by "Susan" wrote Tuesday. (Patch readers are not required to use their real names when commenting.)
"You find that your work, dedication, and passion are now only met with suspicion, and that the first instinct of your supervisors is to protect not the accusers, not the accused, but only their own careers. No, neither (Superintendent Marla) Stephenson, nor the police, nor any other individual took Mr. I's life, but they very well backed him out onto the ledge," the commenter wrote.
Another blog poster going by "Colleen O'Neill" wrote this, hours after Izumizaki's body was found: "If this man was innocent this community has done something akin to the Salem Witch Trials."
A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night in front of the school, with grieving children and parents leaving condolence notes, flowers and candles. That display of respect struck some as unseemly and triggered more debate about the appropriate response to what had unfolded.
"People need to stop defending this guy. If it was a less charismatic teacher the community would be calling this guy a monster," "John Lewis" wrote on Patch. Others asked what the girl who reported Izumizaki must be thinking, seeing the outpouring of support for the teacher.
Amid the community controversy, police have clarified that more than one girl came forward with sex abuse allegations.
These conflicting, confusing reactions to such allegations are "very common" because perpetrators often groom not just victims but entire communities, according to Terri Miller, of Las Vegas, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation.
"Oftentimes they are award-winning teachers or very popular teachers and that's how they mask the demon inside," Miller said. "The community doesn't know that side of him; only the victims have seen that side of perpetrators."
It's important not to blame the victim in these cases and reserve judgment, she said.
"People just need to be cognizant that there is a child out there suffering," she said. "This is so horribly traumatic for the victims to see this kind of response and to see this adulation of the teacher."
Such community reaction could prevent victims from coming forward in the future, she said.
Dr. Glenn Lipson, a Southern California forensic psychologist who consults on sexual misconduct issues, said the treatment of victims can be ruthless.
"They torment them. They write on their backpacks, call them names. ... It's very difficult for kids to come forward," he said. ..Source.. by Matthias Gafni